MARQUETTE – For Neal Collick, one of the best parts of training for and running marathons is the friends he’s made.

The 33-year-old Negaunee resident – a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and the father of a 10-year-old son – began running seriously three years ago when he signed up for a half marathon three days before the race.

He was in good physical shape, having pursued biking as a hobby and participated in local bike races such as the Ore to Shore in Marquette, but hadn’t trained at all for distance running.

“About three years ago a friend talked me into doing Pictured Rocks Road Race in Munising, which is a half marathon, and I guess from that point on I was hooked,” Collick said. “It wasn’t a good training … (but) I finished it, and I definitely paid for it. I was pretty sore for awhile.”

Friends are a big part of what Collick said he loves about running. He said all winter he trained with 10 to 15 friends, and finds their experience, advice and camaraderie very valuable.

“The friends and socializing on a lot of the training runs is a great part of it,” he said. “It’s so nice to really get to know each other and look forward to a morning training run or talk about everybody’s goals.”

Collick has trained for and run marathons in Detroit, Green Bay, Wis., and Duluth, Minn. He finished the Marquette Marathon Saturday with a time of three hours, 19 minutes, 23.2 seconds – a pace of seven minutes, 36 seconds a mile.

Collick also plans to run the Chicago Marathon in October, and said that because the Chicago Marathon is such a fast course, with a lot of crowd support, he planned to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon with his time in Chicago – only to find out that the Chicago race is held too late to make the cutoff for next year’s marathon in Boston.

In any case, Collick’s drive to get out there Saturday comes from a deep passion for the sport.

“I love running in general,” he said. “It’s a great way for me to relieve stress, make a bad day better or a good day great. I just really enjoy getting out there.”

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.